Venzago, performers span epochs

August 01, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The program of last night's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Summer MusicFest concert in Meyerhoff Hall was probably more difficult for Mario Venzago to prepare than it would have been for Pinchas Zukerman, who planned all the programs in this year's festival.

For Zukerman, the new artistic director of Summer MusicFest, moving from Mozart backward to Vivaldi and then forward to Stravinsky would have required much less effort than for Venzago.

Zukerman and Venzago are the same age, 48. But the former has been relatively untouched by the authenticity-in-music movement; he does not conceive of performing music from different eras in markedly different ways -- he just plays. Venzago, however, grew up musically in the shadow of such figures as Gustav Leonhardt and Nicholas Harnoncourt. For the Swiss-born conductor, one suspects, moving as little as the 50 years between Mozart and Vivaldi involves a major gear shift.

Nevertheless, Venzago did a fine job in leading the orchestra's wind players in Mozart's Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major (K. 361), accompanying piccolo player Laurie Sokoloff and guitarist Manuel Barrueco in concertos by Vivaldi and, finally, conducting Stravinsky's "Pulcinella" Suite.

Venzago and his 13 players performed the Mozart selection with refined ensemble and with finely matched timbres. The textures were unusually clear; and though the first adagio was taken somewhat faster than usual, it flowed persuasively and comfortably at that tempo.

Laurie Sokoloff sounded initially less than comfortable at the conductor's brisk tempo in the first movement of Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto in C, but this fine player made the slow movement sing, and she played the final movement, taken at a more natural pace, with flair and vitality.

Barrueco played the composer's Guitar Concerto in D with assured mastery, making its slow movement, one of the most beautiful things Vivaldi ever wrote, especially haunting.

Stravinsky's "Pulcinella" Suite got off to a somewhat rocky start and Adrian Semo struggled initially with the demanding solo violin part. But the performance settled into a reading with wit and considerable energy that brought it closer to the 20th than to the 18th century. Much of the solo playing was good, never more so than in the Vivo's hilarious byplay between Christopher Dudley's trombone raspberries and Robert Barney's lumbering double bass commentary.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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